What Does Your Radio Building Say About You?
April 12, 2016
Listen regularly to JACKfm, and you'll hear it making fun of its "dumpy little building," whether in Culver City or in Oxford. (Oxford's way dumpier, by the way). But I believe that your radio station building has a surprising effect on your sound.
When in London in March, I popped in to see Global Radio, home of brands like Capital FM, Heart, Radio X and LBC. Their studios are beautiful. Here's newstalk station LBC, during a mayoral phone - in - with monitors sunk into the desk to ensure a clear sightline for the cameras. I was shown round Radio X's studios - a bright green studio with branding all over the place, looking shiny and smart.
Global's offices, too, are impressive. There are two cafe areas, one open to advertisers and visitors, and a host of great-looking meeting rooms. And, though I've not seen it, I believe there is also a small theatre in the building, too, for screenings of video material. Reception is up some spiral staircases, covered in flat screens: bright, airy and confident. Global Radio is based in Leicester Square, the throbbing heart of London's tourist district, next to the Odeon cinema where all the major film premiers are held. Every ounce of the building oozes showbiz and stardom.
I then popped over to Wireless Group's offices. They're down a small street, close to the Thames in a relatively nondescript part of London. Behind an anonymous frontage, a small reception area allows entry to talkSPORT, talkRADIO and Virgin Radio. The studios themselves are functional, as this clip shows - but not, quite, on the same par. The office space is a bit more cramped and a little less showbizzy.
Visiting radio stations in Australia, too, shows a wide variation in buildings. The public service ABC has relatively new studios on the South Bank of Brisbane: beautifully equipped and well laid-out studios, but non-descript and rather-too-quiet offices which, to be honest, could be in a bank, an insurance company, or a local council.
Up the road in a 1950s building, community radio station 4ZZZ is almost the opposite. Old music posters act as wallpaper outside the studios, and a charming selection of old furniture litters the more public areas of the station. The offices at the top, in a renovated loft space, are flanked with vinyl records. The station's old mixing consoles are here as decoration. The outside of the building is painted brightly, too - with neon signs adding to the feel.
You could claim that the offices are immaterial. It's radio, after all. But I've always found that creative people need creative space around them to help energize them. A confident building appears to give a confident sound on-air. And if there's one thing that radio needs more of, it's confidence.